Villarejo, acquitted of slandering former head of CNI

This is the first sentence on the retired commissioner, in custody since 2017

3 min
Former Commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, testifying at the trial

After almost three and a half years in pre-trial detention in Soto del Real for up to 25 cases opened against him as part of the operation Tandem, which are dotted all over the high courts of the state, retired commissioner José Manuel Villarejo already has the first court sentence in his hands. And, to the surprise of the state apparatus, it is an acquittal. The magistrate of the penal court number 8 of Madrid has communicated this Monday the acquittal of Villarejo for slander and filing a false accusation against the former director of the National Center of Intelligence (CNI) Felix Sanz Roldán. The charges originate in Villarejo's 2017 appearance on LaSexta's Salvados, where he claimed the then head of the Spanish secret services had threatened the former lover of the king emeritus Corinna Larsen. This is a minor trial held only ten days ago in a Madrid court of first instance and not in the High Court, where the alleged network of parapolice corruption created by Villarejo is being investigated. But the trial gave him the opportunity to go public for the first time since he went to prison, in a meeting in which the so-called "state sewers" are facing off: Villarejo vs. Roldan, supported by the State Attorney's Office.

In the sentence, the judge finds that Villarejo did not commit any of the crimes for which he faced a maximum of three years in prison - the prosecution dropped the charge of slander during the trial but the State's Attorney's Office kept it. As for the insults, the judge concluded that the secret services, as a public body, do not have the right to the honour that was allegedly violated in the Salvados programme. He also says that the CNI is not part of the Spanish army or the State security forces, which do have this right, because it "is not of a military nature" and its functions are "completely different". In the case of the second crime, that of false accusation, the judge believes that the complaint filed by Villarejo against Sanz Roldán cannot be considered criminal. And he points out that, in the case of the one he presented at the High Court, Villarejo did not act "deliberately accusing of false facts, nor did he incur in a reckless disregard for the truth, because it does not seem completely absurd, dismissable, or the result of the particular ideation of the accused, the account of the facts he presented in the complaint".

Specifically, Villarejo had accused the former director of the CNI of having provided a journalist with an image in which he was seen with another commissioner getting off a plane at Melilla airport. In a complaint to the Audiencia Nacional, the former commissioner accused Sanz Roldán of collaborating with a terrorist organisation and of revealing official secrets because he claimed he was in the middle of a secret operation as an undercover agent. During the trial, Villarejo accused the CNI of orchestrating a smear campaign against him.

But the sentence does not reflect one of the most mediatic moments of the trial, which lasted two days. It was the statement of Corinna by videoconference in which she testified to validate Villarejo's claims and said she had felt threatened by Spanish intelligence with "terrifying episodes". She also noted that the King Emeritus, Juan Carlos I, was behind the CNI threats. As a result of that testimony, the prosecution withdrew the charges. Sanz Roldán admitted that he had gone to London, where he met with the king's former lover, but he invoked his right as a spy not to explain the reasons for the trip.